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Vive la Différence

The other day a friend suggested reading an article which released by the Associated Press that looked at the end game of the current economic recovery.

In the article, the reporter made many, wide-sweeping claims. We are not here to debate the accuracy of that piece or those claims. For all we know the reporter’s claims could be right on the money.

But the key phrase there is “for all we know.” And we say this because there was virtually no attribution to most (if not all) of those claims. There were things stated as if they were facts with nothing in the article to back them up.

For example, the article claims – among other things, “Fewer middle-class Americans own homes. Fewer are invested in the stock market.” Those things may be true, but the reporter did absolutely nothing to provide any evidence of them. The reporter expected his readers to accept those claims as fact, simply because he stated them.

With no attribution, those kinds of claims turn this piece from a “news story” into an editorial – a statement of opinion and nothing more. True journalists, when writing genuine news stories, list their sources – i.e. “according to latest census”; “as reported in The Wall Street Journal.”

Without those kinds of attribution, it’s not news, it’s merely opinion. Just as this article is a statement of opinion – an opinion with which you are 100 percent free to agree or disagree.

However, when presented as a “news story,” the presumption is that it’s news; it’s factual; it is to be believed or taken as fact merely on face value. And that’s the problem.

Like most of his fellow citizens, our friend reads article such as this and many others just like it (which are all presented as factual), accepts them on their face as fact, and moves on armed – not with facts – but with someone’s opinion. And the real tragedy is that he can’t recognize the difference.

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